picture of outdoor press conference

Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony took his spat with the government over public transportation funding in the capital straight to the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday, reports Telex.

The mayor held held a press conference together with 10 other opposition politicians in front of the Carmelite Monastery in the Buda Castle, where he said the government still owes the city 12 billion Ft. (US $36.6 million), which is its share of funding to operate the Budapest Transportation Company (BKV).

At the press conference, Karácsony used the word “bliccel” to characterize the government’s behavior, a word that in colloquial Hungarian describes someone who is riding for free without a ticket. The group also held aloft an oversized “fine” for the amount of 12 billion Ft. to show the amount that the government was in arrears.

According to general European practice, Karácsony explained, the operating costs of public transportation in most cities are equally shared by the national government, the city, and transit riders. There was once a similar ratio in Budapest as well, but government funding has decreased to just 12 billion Ft. in the past few years, he added.

Responding to Minister László Palkovics statement that only Karácsony’s signature is missing for the capital to receive the missing BKV funds, the mayor commented, “Palkovics is lying, as there is no document to sign.”

Karácsony said the capital can’t come up with the missing funds itself, so they demand that the government provide what it owes. Until that happens, he said, passengers riding Budapest transportation will be informed on BKV lines that the government is “riding free,” and if the money still isn’t forthcoming, the mayor doesn’t rule out limiting public transportation in some way. Finally, he expressed the hope that the government will pay up if they keep beating the drum about it.

Following his speech, those with the mayor tried to deliver the oversized fine to the government. However, they were stopped at the aluminum cordon surrounding the courtyard of the building by the police officers behind it.

At this point, the commander of the guard explained that no one had the right to step behind the cordon without permission, while the politicians announced that they were “awaiting Viktor Orbán to come out with 12 billion.”

The stalemate was finally resolved when the protesters attached the fine to the aluminium fence with plastic ties.

Later, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology announced that Gergely Karácsony and his entourage went to the wrong location, as such commissions are distributed at City Hall. The government will pay the 12 billion Ft. as soon as the capital signs certain cooperation agreements, the Ministry said in a statement, but it did not specify what these agreements had to do with mass transit funding.

[Telex]

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By Steven N.

Steven is the editor-in-chief of Hungarian Politics. He has been following the political scene in Hungary and the Central European region more or less since 1994.